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Senate Democrats Made A Voting Rights Bill A Top Priority, But It's Expected To Fail


Senate Democrats are planning to bring a sweeping election overhaul up for a vote on Tuesday. It's a top priority for the Biden administration. But White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki conceded today the Democrats don't have the necessary Republican support to pass it.


JEN PSAKI: We don't expect there to be a magical 10 votes. I'm not suggesting that.

SHAPIRO: Democrats say this bill is necessary to protect the integrity of the country's elections. Republicans are calling it an unprecedented one-party power grab. NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis is following the debate and joins us now.

Hi, Sue.


SHAPIRO: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says not one Republican will vote for this bill. Why such uniform opposition across the party?

DAVIS: Well, if you take a step back and look at it, the bill would create many new federal standards for how states run elections. And Republicans philosophically, fundamentally oppose more federal intervention on how individual states are running things. The Democrats' bill would - among many, many other things, it would mandate that states have automatic voter registration, that online registration must be available. It would allow for voters to register on the same day as Election Day. It would expand mail-in voting. And it would make it a lot harder for states to remove voters from their voter rolls. It would also create new campaign finance disclosures that Republicans, especially, like, Mitch McConnell, have long argued violate First Amendment rights.

And while former President Trump - obviously he continues to try to undermine the 2020 election. The truth about the election is that there was historic record turnout. There was no impactful voter fraud or election integrity issues with the count. And some top Republicans say this legislation is trying to combat a problem that doesn't actually exist.

SHAPIRO: Well, it's also trying to combat the push in states led by Republicans across the country to use those false claims about the 2020 election to pass new restrictive voting laws.

DAVIS: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: How do congressional Republicans respond to that?

DAVIS: I mean, denial mostly - they only impact of those laws, especially for communities of color (ph). That's a big reason why there's not a lot of good faith here between the two parties when it comes to the election - of election reform. There's also an argument that the state level is where a lot of election law changes should be made and Democrats should be focusing their efforts there.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki did acknowledge Congress is not the only avenue they're looking at. She noted the administration is providing more funding to the Justice Department to enforce existing voter laws. She also said the White House plans to engage more with state officials. Another example - the Senate Democrats Campaign Committee just last week announced an initial $10 million investment in a new voter protection program ahead of the midterms.

So there is a lot of action happening on this, it's just unlikely to be congressional action. This is just an intense of a hard-line party fight as you could find right now. And there's just zero expectation for compromise on Capitol Hill.

SHAPIRO: This seems likely to trigger a new round of debate on the left over the future of the filibuster, the Senate rule that requires a 60-vote supermajority to advance legislation. Any movement there?

DAVIS: Not really. The only real suspense ahead of tomorrow's vote is whether Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia is going to vote with the rest of Democrats on a procedural matter to bring up the bill for debate. He continues to support the filibuster in its current form, as do a lot of other moderate senators. He's not the only one. He does support a lot of what's in this legislation even though he's the only Democrat not to co-sponsor it. He's even offered up some proposals on how to change it. He's just said he won't vote for it if it's not bipartisan. His argument is basically if Republicans are - what they're doing in the states is bad for democracy, Democrats doing it on their own on the federal level is also going to erode confidence. In his own words, he said, quote, "partisan policymaking won't instill confidence in our democracy. It will destroy it."

SHAPIRO: That's NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis.

Thanks a lot.

DAVIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.